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WrestleMania V – A Portrait in Wrestling History

WRESTLEMANIA V
From Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, NJ
April 2, 1989

BACKGROUND
The picture of the WWF hadn’t changed much in the year between WrestleMania IV and V. Other than the unfamiliar sight of somebody other than Hulk Hogan being WWF Champion, in this case Macho Man Randy Savage, things in the WWF were seemingly running as smooth as ever.

In late 1988, WWF released their first video game, entitled WWF Wrestlemania, for the classic Nintendo Entertainment System. With Hulk Hogan’s shirt-tearing image plastered on the cover of the game’s packaging, fans who yearned for a WWF-based video game had to get used to this being the only one of its kind until October 1990, when WWF Challenge was released.

Hogan wasn’t just serving as the avatar for wrestling video games. “The Hulkster” would soon be starring in No Holds Barred, a low-rent fighting movie to be released theatrically in June 1989. Although the movie was a critical flop, it did two things. One, it introduced the wrestling world to Zeus, who would be making his way into the promotion toward the end of spring.

The other was reinforcing the idea that, although Savage may be champion right now, Hogan was still the most popular wrestler they had.

In fact, Hogan was used to elevate Savage’s profile as well. The two teamed as The Mega Powers, thwarting the likes of Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant, as well as the up-and-coming Twin Towers. Never before had the WWF featured two good guys that were, seemingly, on par with each other at such a high clip.

It seemed inevitable, however, that Hogan would be getting the gold back sooner, rather than later. With Savage in the way as champion, however, the WWF needed a way to explain how Hogan would have to challenge his best friend in the whole wide world over it.

THE EVENT
Against the backdrop of New Jersey’s gambling hub for the second straight year, WrestleMania was thrust into the colored, flashing lights yet again. However, unlike the previous year’s glitzy pageantry with the World Championship tournament, WrestleMania V would have a decidedly darker tone.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the house lights inside the Trump Plaza seemed a few shades blacker for the building’s WrestleMania sequel, because the main event of the night featured a storyline that wasn’t exactly comfortable.

In a chapter that would be more at home in the playbook of the Attitude Era, WWF Champion Macho Man Randy Savage and one-time best friend Hulk Hogan watched their Mega Powers-partnership disintegrate over a woman. That woman, of course, would be Savage’s better half, Miss Elizabeth.

After forming an alliance in the fall of 1987 that culminated with Hogan aiding Savage in becoming champion at WrestleMania IV, the duo staved off Ted Dibiase, Andre the Giant, The Twin Towers, and anyone else that dared stand up to the two biggest heroes that the WWF had on display.

Things went sour in February 1989, however, when a mishap during a tag team match saw Savage land on Miss Elizabeth on the concrete. Hogan took her away to be checked out medically, and Savage saw Hogan’s rescue attempt to be him sidling up to her as a homewrecker.

That night, with Miss Elizabeth in agony on a gurney, Savage accused Hogan of having “jealous eyes”, while Hogan defended his actions as being nothing more than platonic. The nail in the Mega Powers’ coffin was hammered in by Savage striking “The Immortal” with his World Championship belt, with Savage further butchering their ties with added punches and threats.

Savage hated Hogan, and perhaps hated Miss Elizabeth more for refusing to take sides. Hogan, for his part, swore revenge for Savage’s treachery, and planned on taking his championship as a means to that end.

Elsewhere, The Ultimate Warrior had became the big star that WrestleMania IV indicated would be coming, and he achieved ascension to that level by winning the Intercontinental Championship from The Honky Tonk Man.

In his sights, however, was Ravishing Rick Rude, who brutally assaulted him with a flexi-bar at the Royal Rumble after the two engaged in a posing contest. The match was also of importance to Rude’s manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan who, after five years in the WWF with many different charges in his camp, had yet to manage a single titleholder.

Speaking of managers, Mr. Fuji was four months removed from double-crossing Demolition, the team he managed to WWF World Tag Team gold, and was attempting to lead the Powers of Pain, whom he left the Demos for, to the gold. Fuji would join the Powers in a three on two handicap match against Demolition, who looked forward to not only defending their belts, but destroying Fuji for his betrayal.

Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura would, as usual, call the action. Rap icons Run DMC would perform a special “Wrestlemania Rap” in the middle of the show. Also, Superfly Jimmy Snuka would return after a four year exile.

But biggest of all was Rowdy Roddy Piper returning, fresh from a turn in Hollywood. Piper would come back to antagonize Brother Love and talk show host Morton Downey Jr.

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THE RESULTS
Hercules def. King Haku in 6:57
(Decent opener, but the storyline was better: Hercules was attempting to get revenge on Bobby Heenan and his associates for Heenan selling Hercules into slavery. This actually happened)

The Twin Towers def. The Rockers in 8:02
(Sign you knew Shawn Michaels was going to be great, part 4,515: despite being severely hung over, Shawn still stole the show. By the way, this is the first WrestleMania match to feature four men born in the 1960’s or later)

Brutus Beefcake fought Ted Dibiase to a double count out in 10:01
(Man, what a letdown for Dibiase: headlining one year, and then drawing with Hogan’s landscaper the next. No wonder Dibiase fell into drugs and alcohol so hard)

The Bushwhackers def. The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers in 3:59
(Two years later, and Jacques would be reinventing himself as a crazed Canadian law enforcer. How many other forms of entertainment can boast THAT sentence?)

Mr. Perfect def. The Blue Blazer in 5:38
(Sigh…..great match for being so short, but still, it’s depressing to think about)

WWF World Tag Team/Handicap Match: Demolition def. Powers of Pain/Mr. Fuji in 8:54
(Mr. Fuji in 1989 was in better shape than Ric Flair in 2011. Truth)

Dino Bravo def. Ronnie Garvin in 4:59
(This is the match where those walking cotton candy and popcorn vendors earn their biggest money)

The Brain Busters def. Strike Force in 9:17
(Really good, albeit abbreviated, tag team match that cut a good pace. This also led to Rick Martel turning heel and becoming a fashion model at age 33. And nobody batted an eye)

Jake Roberts def. Andre the Giant by disqualification in 9:44
(The special referee was Big John Studd, who apparently won the right to be referee by winning the 1989 Royal Rumble. Ted Dibiase interfered in the match, which marked the last known time that the Mega Bucks ever worked together)

The Hart Foundation def. Honky Tonk Man/Greg Valentine in 7:40
(Honky became the first man in wrestling history to be knocked unconscious after being hit in the elbow with a megaphone. Maybe the first in human history too)

WWF Intercontinental: Rick Rude def. The Ultimate Warrior in 9:36 to win the title
(Talk about an underrated match; neither man was considered a good worker to this point, and Rude led the way in a tremendous, albeit criminally short, match. Warrior’s post match beatdown of Bobby Heenan apparently exacerbated Heenan’s lingering neck injuries)

Hacksaw Jim Duggan fought Bad News Brown to a double disqualification in 3:49
(If you ever wanted to see Duggan with a primo snot rocket in his beard, you’re watching the right show)

Red Rooster def. Bobby Heenan in 32 seconds
(Bobby Heenan: who DIDN’T he job for?)

WWF World Championship: Hulk Hogan def. Macho Man Randy Savage in 17:54 to win the title
(This match had everything: intense storyline, shades of character from both men and Miss Elizabeth, blood, a crazy bump (Savage being bodyslammed over the top rope), and a satisfying finish. All the bad came from Jesse Ventura going too far in slagging Hogan during the match. Otherwise, great stuff)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY

Despite having too many matches (14 in four hours), WrestleMania V provided just as much good as they did bad. The majority of the matches had little to no storyline value, and that would become an unacceptable standard for an event that is to be the annual snapshot of WWE for some imaginary time capsule.

However, Vince McMahon must have liked the idea of fourteen matches expanding his card to its limits, because the next two WrestleManias would feature the same amount of contests.

Although the stretched concept didn’t last forever, the idea of adding deep-running intensity and hatred into storylines would. The WWF was getting over the idea of “Hogan vs. monster heel”, and firmly embracing a newer trick of letting characters, not so much caricatures, shine.

Hogan and Savage’s blood feud over a woman helped set the new standard for main event feuds. Over the next several years, Wrestlemania story arcs would feature more attempts at adultery, family betrayal, and calls for blood that would all but make the campy 1980’s “Rock n Wrestling” style extinct.

WrestleMania V will forever be remembered for its headliners, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, as the two men would define this era.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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Justin Henry

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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